Day 365: Turn 30.

Happy Birthday to me!  And happy Thanksgiving to all.

Last night I had a nice long talk with the Husbandit about a revelation I had.  I know that I have only one real regret about my twenties; I wish I had had more fun.  This particular regret has dogged me for the past couple of years and I’ve felt ashamed of it, I worried that there was something wrong with me.  Then, as I was driving home last night I realized two things:  1)  Absolutely everyone has regrets  2) It isn’t my fault.  I realized that my fear and depression and anxiety that kept me from enjoying my life is simply part of my wiring and circumstance that I had to work through.  I spent my twenties working through it, and  now I feel more happy, calm, and mindful–which means I experience more joy.  For me, part of growing up meant learning how to cultivate joy, and there is no shame in growing. It’s what we do.

I also realized that everyone else has something they wish they had done differently–that’s also part of growing up and I’m grateful that my particular regret didn’t involve hurting myself or others too badly.

The Husbandit listened to all this, agreed with me and added, “I think you should think of this as a fresh beginning also.  A decade is behind you and you learned a lot.  A new decade is in front of you.  You get to live that decade how ever you want.”  Like the folklorist he is, the Husbandit added, “You spent your twenties devoted to Athena–now you can focus a bit more on Pan.”  I liked that, it felt lik my like was a tarot spread and now I’m turning over a new card and figuring out what it means to me.

Today, in celebration of starting new era I have spent my time, riding my bike, watching British comedies, writing, making cookies and cranberry sauce, and smooching on my love.  This evening I will have the chocolate-iest chocolate cake east of the Mississippi, drink Prosecco, eat an incredible meal with friends and take a taxi home to collapse in bed.  It’s going to be a good life.

I would write more, but I need to go have fun.

 

Day 362: Reflect On All The Things!

Last week, I got a new job.

This is an exciting, wonderful thing for several reasons:

1)  I have been searching for a new job for about eight months, which has including writing an average of  one full job application(including a resume, cover letter, and occasionally a portfolio) per week.  Additionally, I have been doing informational interviews, formal and informal networking events and actual job interviews. This takes up lots of time and energy–now I can devote that time and energy elsewhere.

2) I have been interviewing for this particular job for 3 months and have been living in a state of uncomfortable limbo. That also takes lots of time and energy.

3) It pays better than my current position.  This job is going to help the Husbandit and I improve the immediate quality of our lives and will allow us to start making some long term plans.

4)  I want this job because it works for me and my interests and priorities and needs–not because I hope that it will sound impressive or because it is what I feel I “should” be doing or because I just need a job.  The position seems like it will genuinely fit me and my life.

5)  In order to get to #4, I had to figure out who I am and what I actually want in my life.  Pushing myself to try new things has helped me discern who I am and what I want and I’m excited to reap some benefits of that work.

When I started this blog project I had two of the lurking goals in the back of my mind:  get published and  get a new job. However, I also had a lurking feeling that I wanted more than to change jobs and see something I wrote in print.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted, so trying new things seemed like a good path.  As I started purposefully engaging in new actions the same question kept emerging: “Does this make me suffer less or more?”

It sounds rather bleak to talk about suffering, but it is a very practical question. We all suffer at some point and we all want to suffer less.  Previously, I always asked myself, “Is this what I should be doing?”  Interestingly, that question had not helped me be happier, it just led me to flail about in fear and anxiety. Simply asking myself  “Does this make you suffer less or more?”  was much more useful.  Asking that question then letting the answer inform my actions  nudged me to make choices that were more likely to make happy.  It opened me up to building the structure of my life around happiness, not fear.  Fear is certainly still there, but it is less of the foundation and more the weird staircase to nowhere accidentally left in by the architect.

Approaching my life this way is what led me to do the informational interviews, the writing classes, the job applications, the informal networking; to make the choice to write between appointments, to start going to a support group, to send the manuscript to a publisher; to give myself the permission to try new things, to accept myself, to step into the unknown.  And all of these small and large decisions contributed to me being able to tick off my two secret goals.

Funny note:  When I found out that I got the job I had an overwhelming urge to dye my hair–which was another lurking goal.  Hair dyeing has always been this attractive but scary thing for me–it’s bound up with all these feelings about image and interaction and permanence.  I kept saying I would do it, then I would chicken out.  I read this article a few months ago and I have decided to take the plunge.  It will have to happen after my birthday and the end of this blog because my hair-dyeing buddy is out of the country, but it’s going to happen!  It feels wonderfully superficial and symbolic.

 

 

Day 342: Did (Almost) All the Halloween, Told Scary Things to People, Considered Accepting Reality

Happy Halloween!

I am really into Halloween, like super obnoxiously into Halloween.  I dream of the day I can be an old lady in a cool old house that I decorate with lots of bats and gravestones and spiders and I will give out really good candy and play scary music in the front room.

Unfortunately, for the past few years the Husbandit and I have been experiencing cash-flow issues and there is rarely money to spare for costumes, party-throwing, and decorations.  Also there has been a time-flow issue and there has rarely been time to make lots of Halloween cookies from scratch, or peruse thrift stores for costume parts, or any of the other things you can do to make Halloween magic on a budget.  Last year this culminated in me attempting and failing to sew a costume last minute and getting really weepy and runny-nosed and explaining to the Husbandit that I Just. Wanted. To. Have. Fun.  For A Change.

This incident was part of what inspired me to do this blog because I realized that if I’m saving up all my fun and joy for one night, I’m probably doing it wrong.

This year I made a little more room for fun costumes and clothing in my life, such as wearing a a huge fascinator or bright red shoes simply because I decided that was my DamaskRose costume for the day.  And even though money and time has continued to be tight, I made the effort to enjoy the hell out of Halloween anyway.  I volunteered to decorate our office for my workplace’s annual trick-or-treating, I watched silent horror films on YouTube, and tonight I am going to go out to a Halloween ball with the Husbandit, even if we can’t stay out all night because we have to work the next day.

In the spirit of the month, many of my new acts have been doing things that scare me.  I started another writing class that focuses on revision, an area that scares the heck out of me.  The Husbandit and I decided that for the sake of his health and stress level we needed to not travel for the holidays this year…and we told our families (they ended up being pretty understanding).  I’ve been going to lots of networking events in which I don’t know anyone.  And I’ve been having more honest conversations with friends.  During several different conversations, the same theme kept coming up–the idea of giving up hope as an act of courage.

The idea is that when we stop putting our life on hold while we strive towards some mythical ideal, be it money, career, physical change, whatever, we end up neither enjoying out life, nor reaching that ideal.  Actual happiness is found in being mindful of each moment as it is, rather than perpetually dreaming of a perfect moment in the past or future.,

When people say stuff like this to me, my usual response it, “Yeah, well–what about people in awful situations like floods and and slavery and famine?  Are they supposed to give up hope?  Accept the shitty present?  How’s your theory now, huh? Huh?  That’s right, you better walk away” (In my mind, I’m saying this to a kindly Buddhist monk and he looks very sad).

However, a friend gave a slightly different spin that made me less skeptical.  She explained that the idea of mindfulness isn’t about making you a mindless smiley doormat to reality; rather, it is about accept reality wholeheartedly so that you can either be really happy or really sad or really angry instead of drifting through your existence.  I like that idea better, though the thought of practicing that kind of acceptance is pretty scary.

All right, enough navel-gazing.  Time to apply some glittery eyelashes and drink some dubious green cocktails and dance until…well, closer to dawn that it is now.

Happy Halloween!

Day 330: GET PUBLISHED!!!

In my inbox today…

Dear DamaskRose,

Thank you for sending “DamaskRose’s Essay” for our consideration. We love this piece and would like to publish it in a future issue of An Honest to Goodness Literary Journal with Editors And Everything.  Please let me know if it is still available and I will follow up with the publication specifics.

Thank you again for sharing your fine work with us.

Sincerely,

A Real Editor

Day Who the Hell Knows, I’m in a Craptastic Mood. Also My First Ever Reader Poll.

Something mysterious is biting me.  And while I am rarely in the mood for invisible insectile visitors, I am particularly not in the mood this week.  I’ve been waiting on some important news, not sleeping well from the anxiety of waiting for said news and that always makes everything horrible.  Waking up with strange bites and lumps does not improve my outlook.  Niether does interacting with serious of unfortunate customers that seem to be competing for first prize on this site.  Also, there is construction everywhere I want to go.  And the news is making me so sad and angry that I’m considering using “I statements” directed at the entire universe. 

“When drones are killing people based on social networking theory that hasn’t yet proven to stop violence, I feel worried that my nation-state is committing heinous acts.”

“When a fourteen year old girl is shot in the head in order to enforce a sexist regime, I feel that angry and that you don’t respect my humanity.”

“When politicians seem to be engaged in a race to the bottom in order to gain power, I feel like smacking the shit out of them.”

Lately I’ve been doing this exercise in which I imagine what the world’s best kindergarten teacher would say.  I think right now she would say that I need a nap and to concentrate on things that make me happy.  Number 3 on the the top ten list of Things that Make Me Happy is Halloween costumes.  Once again I have a million Halloween costume ideas and not nearly enough parties.  So, here are the current contestants:

1) Angel of Death!  (Wedding dress + DIY Hourglass from Soda Bottles + Angel wings + Skull mask)

2) Lana from Archer! (fake holster + sweater dress + boots + attitude)

3) Rapunzel! (fake hair + princess dress + tiara)

4) Persephone (Pommegrante + tunic + sadness)

Vote in the comments below!  Who should I be for Halloween?

 

Days 305-313: Achieve Some Grace while Waiting, Riding, and Biking

This past couple of weeks I’ve been waiting to hear back on a couple of applications and interviews I’ve done.  It’s been nail-bitingly intense and I hate the whole process.  I’ve also been dealing with a series of stunningly inappropriate patrons at work, and a lot of rejection letters from literary magazines I really like.  None of this makes me happy or calm.  But–it has forced me to use a lot of the DBT skills I’ve been working on and to reflect on the process of being in process.  I always get frustrated at people who tell me to be less stressed because I don’t feel like it’s something I control  Life just feels stressful all the time.

However, these past three weeks I have been trying to accept the stress and tolerate it, rather than fighting it and bemoaning the fact that it never quite goes away.  I’ve taken a lot of angry bike rides, taken a lot of baths and talked out a lot of my worry with some trusted people and some fictional characters.  While that helps, it hasn’t made it all go away.

On this topic, the Husbandit said something wise, as he is occasionally wont to do.  I was venting about All the Things That Suck and how frustrated I was that I can’t deal better with them and he said, “Well, you do realize that you’re trying to achieve grace right?  The feeling of detached observation of world that is tolerant and compassionate?  That people have devoted hella lot of time to writing about?  That’s a pretty big brass ring, sweetie.  It’s okay that you haven’t achieved grace yet.”

Oh.  Yes.  Right.  Grace.

I continued to take bike rides an baths and concentrate on my breathing and to try to do everything whole-heartedly this past week.  When I’m angry I try to be really angry, rather than cover it up or push it away.  When I’m happy, I try to be really happy.  When I’m folding clothes, I’m trying to concentrate on folding clothes.  And when I worry, I’m trying to fully embrace the worry. And then, when I’m happy again, I embrace that.  This is all very frightening, because it means that nothing lasts.  It has also turned me into one of the obnoxious people who suggests meditating on people’s words when they are really irritating you.  But hey, it’s one of the things that is helping and bonus–the obnoxious people are also subject to impermanence.  Ha!

This Monday, I woke up feeling calmer and more detached than I have in a while.  I don’t want to stop feeling the feelings, but I do want to suffer a little less. And it seems that I am not.  At least for today.

Day 294-304: Wrote new short story, started new writing class, submitted two more pieces to litmags, tried new cake recipe…and more.

I have started a writing class on plot and structure because it scares the hell out of me.  Wistful descriptions of the rain and snarky social commentary peppered with moderately well-researched facts, no problem.  But plot, real plot?  As in, the characters actually have to DO something?  I find myself staring blankly at the page.

It is very scary to take a class in something you are not good at, especially if you are the sort of person who color codes her notebooks and takes an A- as evidence of your unworthiness to continue engaging with human society.  Though, I would like to point out that I’m not a stereotypical type A, I’m a type B who figured out that type As tend to get ahead so I channeled all of my anxiety in imitating type As until I could pass.  The plan backfired, now I just color-code notebooks, then lose them when I’m daydreaming on public transportation.  I was also born on the cusp of Sagitarrius and Scorpio.  Right smack in the middle.  Which goes to show that all categories are negotiable.  As are rules about plots, I’m discovering. 

Other things that are negotiable?  Eggs and oils in cakes.  I’ve been experimenting with lower calorie but still delicious cake recipes to take to parties this fall.  My new hack is substituting canned pumpkin for eggs and oil in a box spice cake mix, and adding more spices.  Apparently, you can also use seltzer water, low-fat greek yogurt, and applesauce.  My friends need to throw more parties so I can do more cake experiments. 

While I waited for the spice cake to bake I submitted a creative non-fiction piece to one of my favorite online literary magazines, the Rumpus.  It is slowly becoming less intimidating.

Other highlights of the past two weeks:  seeing a real live organist accompany a movie, showing my parents my workplace and my new neighborhood, attempting cook tempeh on my own for the first time, reading three new books, trying a new hairstyle, and finishing a draft of a short story for my plot and structure class.